Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
What does that mean? Does it mean you can express any opinion without censorship or restraint? Libel, slander, fraud and perjury charges indicates that you cannot. Those laws mean, obviously, that not all speech is protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
There are three limits to freedom of speech. Limitations based on time, place, and manner apply to all speech, regardless of the view expressed.
Categories such as obscenity, fighting words, defamation (including libel and slander), child pornography, perjury, blackmail, incitement to imminent lawless action, true treats and solicitations to commit crimes are not protected.
Simply put, if your “free speech” harms people, it is not protected under the First Amendment. The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a person in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing panic.
Knowingly false statements passed off as fact are often constitutionally unprotected. If libel, fraud, and perjury are unprotected, it stands to reason that knowingly spreading falsehoods – like widespread voter fraud – that cause unnecessary fear are also unprotected speech.
Beginning of narrative: “I live at 1004 Wanamaker Road,” said Stacy Lee, during Tuesday night's Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.
Alderman Sally Brock stated, “In?” “McMinnville 37110,” said Lee. Mayor Ryle Chastain stated, “How did you run for office in Grundy County if you live in McMinnville?”
“My address is 1004 Wanamaker Road, McMinnville TN 37110,” said Lee.
Chastain replied, “OK, just curious. Thank you.”
“Google it,” said Lee. End of narrative. I did “Google it.” That’s a mailing address. The difference between a physical address and a mailing address is that a physical address is where you are geographically located and a mailing address is where you get your mail. The physical address is Grundy County.
Chastain was correct. Stacy Lee ran as a Grundy County District 1 commissioner as a Republican. According to the Aug. 4 election results, she came in fourth in a field of four. Voter fraud, I’m sure.
Kudos, to city officials for attempting to take a stand against false statements. Warren County commissioners could learn from this effort. When the statements are false, it’s not protected speech. Someone should call it out. It is against legitimate government interest to allow knowingly false statements of any kind to be made at televised government meetings and sit quietly by.
Standard reporter Lisa Hobbs can be reached at 473-2191.